Freedom for schools

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Freedom for schools

At the Kwanhun Forum on the future of Korea’s university education held yesterday, the president of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Suh Nam-pyo, warned that the quality of Korea’s university-level instruction cannot improve under the present system.

He believes that educational bureaucracy and policies are too focused on short-term achievements, and are blocking the system from being reformed.

Advocating an overhaul of the whole educational structure, he asserted that if things continue as they are going now, the system will fail.

Despite claiming that schools have autonomy, the Education Ministry still maintains control over the system.

The ministry exercises dominance over universities through various licenses. When a school wants to increase the number of its students, it needs the Education Ministry’s approval. If a school doesn’t follow ministry guidelines, it is likely to have its government financial assistance cut.

We can also take Kaist as an example. The institute plans to increase the number of undergraduate students from the current 700 to 1,000 in order to upgrade the school, but the Education Ministry is refusing to approve the plan, citing the principle of equality among universities.

Earlier, Kaist planned to beef up its faculty from 450 to 700 members in a bid to rival MIT, and applied for the Education Ministry’s approval so that it could recruit 35 additional professors this year. That application was also rejected.

Kaist’s other efforts to reform its educational program, including the reinforced tenure screening system, are very likely to suffer setbacks under these circumstances.

The Education Ministry and educational bureaucrats should not be obstacles to the development of the country’s education. When they give more autonomy to schools, Korea’s universities will have a bright future.

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